Successfully potty training a puppy takes time and patience! Begin potty training outside immediately, as puppies that begin by paper training can have difficulty transitioning to going outside.
Housetraining is all about timing, so make sure to take your puppy out before and after naps, before and after meals, and every hour in between.
Housetraining bells are a great tool for your puppy to let you know they need to go to the bathroom. Hang the bells at nose level on the door your puppy will be exiting to go outside and potty. Every time you go out this door with your puppy, ring the bells. Many puppies will quickly learn that ringing the bells opens the door. Some will go through an “experimentation phase” where they ring the bells many many times, be sure to respond and open the door every time your puppy rings the bell.
Some puppies will not learn how to use the bells and so you must learn their signals! This requires paying close attention to your puppy and noticing what they do before an accident or before a successful outside potty!
Once you and your puppy are outside, use a codeword! Create a command that your whole family will use such as “Go Potty!” or “Do your business!” Using this phrase every time you want your puppy to urinate or defecate helps to stimulate the act once they have learned what it means. This tool can be especially helpful at the veterinary clinic should they need to collect a sample!
After the command has been given, stand outside with your puppy as they do their business. Do not play with your puppy until after they have gone to the bathroom. If your puppy does urinate or defecate, give them enormous amounts of praise and treats and, if you would like, reward them with playtime.
If your puppy has not gone to the bathroom after 5 minutes, bring them back inside, but keep a close eye on them for the next 10-15 minutes. Watch for them to go back to the door or to begin sniffing the floor, these may be signs that they need to go to the bathroom. Ring the bells, take them outside, give the command and try again!
No puppy is perfect and sometimes accidents will happen. Do not make a big deal out of it! Disciplining a puppy for a mistake can make them anxious about going to the bathroom, and make them less likely to gain control in the future. So don’t make a fuss, even clean up the mess out of sight of your puppy!
If you are unable to keep eyes on your puppy, they should be crated. For a puppy still learning to be housetrained, a crate just large enough for your pup to turn around and lay down in should prevent any accidents. Believe it or not, puppies do desire to be clean and are less likely to soil a space they cannot leave. More information on Crate training is available here.